The Goat: Owning My Truth About My Childhood

In Troubled Families, abuse & Neglect are permitted; it’s the talking about them that is forbidden.

-Marcia Sorota

Here’s the thing about goats: they were one of the first animals to be tamed by humans. Here’s the thing about a scapegoat: as a child, they cannot understand that they are one.

A scapegoat in a family is oftentimes the target of accusations, ostracism, and aggression. They will eventually believe the fault lies with them as they try to “toe the family line” but never measure up.  They typically grow up to be depressed, anxious, internalizers of all blame whether or not its true, or suicidal. They have low self-esteem and are highly sensitive, but they’re also justice-seeking and empathic. They know they’re different because they’ve never known another way and no matter how much they’ve tried to plead their innocence to their family members or to themselves, it is never validated. They have to learn to accept the apologies they have never received and probably never will. They have to keep going and oftentimes don’t really know how so they sabotage their own success as adults, preferring to fly under the radar and keep from being a target. They mistrust anything good and they have to work REALLY HARD at love and relationships because what they’ve experienced is ABUSE in every sense of the word but they’ve been conditioned to think it’s love.

I was today-years-old whenever I discovered that this was my truth. My hope is that by sharing it I can help at least one person who’s lived the same truth feel less alone. I am learning to flip the script for myself that I was given and I know you can do the same.

I was 5-years-old

  • whenever he brought me M & M’s before your date and I asked where my daddy was.

I was 6-years-old-

  • When you both said it hurt his feelings that we didn’t call him “Daddy” like our other Dad.

I was 7, almost 8-

  • Whenever you trusted a Stranger to keep an eye on us for the summer while you worked.
  • When the Stranger locked me in closets for hours during the day because  I was old enough to look past the television set and see her slap my baby sister for crying too much.
  • When I was on a car ride with her and innocently asked her to buy us juice in the gas station because we were thirsty. Minutes later I was told to finish the bottle of alcohol she called juice as she ridiculed me for asking for it. I was told if I threw up she’d tell you I was bad.
  • When I was in the bath with my sister and you saw her marks and called the cops.
  • When you sat me on the couch and told me I was the only one who could testify for my sister’s justice.

I was 8-years-old

  • When I had to go into a courtroom, afraid of all of the shadows on the wall, to stare her in the eyes and tell her what she did to us even though I wasn’t the one molested

I was 10-years-old

  • Whenever another babysitter drove us to her boyfriend’s house and she had no seatbelts.
  • When I awoke on a spinal board in a hospital with a broken jaw. The neck brace squeezed painfully against me as I cried out for you.
  • When my jaw was wired shut and I learned that it was painful to talk.

I was 11 -years-old

  • whenever Dad’s new girlfriend left me and my sisters alone in a Boston Market in the middle of Dallas, Texas to go shopping because it was easier without us. We stayed for so long that the manager made me call someone to come and get us. Dad was angry with me for telling you. You were angry with me for not telling you sooner.

I was 13-years-old-

  • Whenever my other Dad started peeling back the tape on my broken doorknob to watch me change.

I was 14-years-old-

  • Whenever I told 2 of my younger sisters about “it” so that one of them could share a room with me and he’d find no reason to come in at night and “accidentally” touch me in my private places.
  • Whenever my favorite teacher asked other teachers to watch out for me because he could tell something was wrong, we shared a love of the same books.
  • Whenever I halfway confided to a friend in gym class and she mistook the information to be my real dad and a formal investigation took place. I had to tell my guidance counselor it wasn’t him but the look in your eye told me not to say anything else.

I was 15-years-old-

  • Whenever I had to touch him for the first time or he was going to tell you and you’d become even stricter than you already were.
  • When he took me to the mall on his motorcycle for a fun day without your permission as a reward for my silence.
  • Whenever we arrived back home and I saw anger in your eyes, pointed not at him, but at me.

I was 16-years-old-

  • When he started coming home earlier before you got home.
  • When he started telling me that “you didn’t give it up like you used to and he had needs”
  • When he implemented a bartering system between feeling me up and my “growth” and the driving lessons I wanted so badly
  • When he said he’d drive me to work instead of you and he got too forceful
  • When I started crying and trying to open the door while the car was moving and he refused to drop me off until I “calmed down” causing me to be late to work
  • When my boss reprimanded me and I lied about being sick so you wouldn’t find out the truth
  • When she called you to come get me and told you I was sick because she knew you and it was a small town
  • When you yelled at me continuously in the car on the way home
  • Whenever my sisters stopped you and said I was telling the truth and that they’d been knowing about it for years
  • When you called my family to ask them what you should do
  • When, the next morning, you begged me to tell that same family that I had only dropped my towel in front of him and exaggerated the entire thing, that I was a liar and needed attention
  • When you made me say that same script so many times I think you started to believe it
  • Whenever you started to punish me in various “extra” ways (such as when I made a B and you were “used to my A’s”,  punishing me from doing my homework when you knew that would make my grade lower, from reading if I stayed up past 8 pm)
  • Whenever you started side-eyeing everything I did like I was “the other woman”
  • Whenever you both started to leave me in charge for weekends at a time to renew your marriage on motorcycle trips

I was 17-years-old-

  • Whenever he caught me reading my Bible and I was punished because it was “past 8 PM” but it was really because I had babysat the girls and I was “caught” holding my boyfriend’s hand (who had come over to visit) with my sister in the middle of us in the well-lit living room.
  • When he began to question my virginity and become angry and jealous.
  • When you asked me to stay home from school to clean the house and he came home early.
  • When I screamed at him that I would tell you as he held me down on the couch to “check to see if I was still a virgin.”
  • When I became withdrawn from my friends
  • Whenever I begged my boyfriend to take my virginity before I lost it in a way I didn’t want but he refused
  • When my 4th stepmother asked my sister why I had become withdrawn and she told her what she knew
  • When I didn’t deny it
  • When I told the Sheriff that my Dad made me go and see that I wouldn’t press charges knowing it would hurt everyone more if I did
  • When you began to question out loud to everyone “how bad it really could be” if I didn’t want to press charges
  • When my Dad invited me to move into his home and you flew into a rage and slapped me when I decided to leave my sisters, friends, and scholarships
  • When my Dad came to pick me up and you invited my family over so that you and they could “make my dad see how bad I was” and proceeded to tell him everything that was wrong with me at our kitchen table

I was 19

  • When I left my Dad’s because he and his 4th marriage had their own issues
  • Whenever I moved back into your home and thought we could be mother and daughter again now that I was an adult and you confided to me that you were leaving my other Dad
  • When I left for the Army with you as my beneficiary and I called home only to discover you were still together
  • Whenever I married into a brief, abusive marriage (people who feel unlovable often find these relationships, I suppose)

I was 20-years-old

  • Whenever I was told I could only have one person beside me in my c-section and chose my husband. I had called you to come and be with me but it wasn’t enough and you distanced yourself even more between me and my son

I was 25-years-old

  • Whenever I had my miscarriage. It began on Christmas Day and I was supposed to visit you and your new husband, I normally wasn’t invited lest anything I said contradicted you. I called you to say I thought I had to go to the hospital. You never asked how I was doing. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that you were telling everyone I had an abortion.

Just A Few Days Ago

  • You reached out to me for help concerning a family member
  • For unknown reasons, you worried about the “lies that I would tell the counselor if this family member called me” while wondering aloud “why anyone would want to talk to me about someone when they could talk to you” and you hung up on me.
  • Immediately afterward, you proceeded to text me every wrong thing you’ve ever known I’ve done, some true and some false, as if you had kept a list nearby, and finally…after several expletives, I won’t repeat here…


-using my love of reading and writing as a weapon against me and my credibility for the final time.

I have learned by now that I do not owe anyone for my existence. The scars may not be visible, but the damage is done. I can be grateful for everything good that was given to me, sure, but I do not have to love the scars that came along with them. I can forgive the ones who held the dagger but I DO NOT have to keep myself vulnerable to another attack. Though considered sacrilege, I stand up for myself in kindness and I refuse to accept that my gifts of reading and writing are evil. They were the sacred things that safeguarded my heart and sanity as I struggled to come to terms with my surroundings and reality.

Blogging about my beloved children in a community of courageous women who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable is just another blessing in my life that I truly enjoy as I strive to reprogram my inner dialogue from “Unlovable Child” to “Good Enough Mommy”, from “Scapegoat” of my past family to “the GOAT” to my children, who will never have to earn my love.

Heather Westbrook
Heather is "Mom, Mama, Mommy" to her 15-year-old son Camiron, 8-year-old-son Owen, and 9-month-old baby Griffin. She was born in Eunice, Louisiana and has lived in New York, Alabama, and Lake Charles, Louisiana before settling in Baton Rouge 5 years ago. She is a Veteran of the U.S. Army and a former Flight Attendant who graduated from FAE in Orlando, Florida as Valedictorian of the program. Heather is employed at Willie's Restaurant on Coursey as a FOH Manager. Heather is a bibliophile who is obsessed with reading and a cosplayer whenever she can find the time, focusing on Comic Book Supheroes, Star Wars and Harry Potter. She loves to write, a true passion of hers. She also enjoys running, crocheting, and drinking coffee!


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